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Prostitution decriminalization bill introduced in the name of 'protecting human rights
A bill has been introduced that would decriminalize prostitution in Washington D.C. (Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images)

Prostitution decriminalization bill introduced in the name of 'protecting human rights

Sex workers who are victims of crimes often aren't comfortable reporting them to authorities for fear of being arrested themselves. So, some Washington D.C. Council members want to decriminalize prostitution.

D.C. Council members David Grosso (I-At Large) and Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large) introduced the Reducing Criminalization to Improve Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2017" which would decriminalize prostitution and create a task force to study the effects and come up with future reforms.

“This is about protecting the human rights of our residents,” said Grosso. “Arresting our way through this has never worked.”

Arguments for decriminalization

  • Sex workers would be more comfortable reporting crimes to police, which could help expose underage sex trafficking operations.
  • Sex workers can more easily find other jobs because they don't have prostitution arrests on their record.

Arguments against decriminalization

  • Washington D.C. could become a "mecca of prostitution" because of more lenient laws.
  • It could become difficult to differentiate between the "legal" sex workers and illegal trafficking operations.
  • There is a large amount of "collateral crime" associated with prostitution, including drugs and violence.

The bill's prospects

The Council is split on this bill, and it would still have to get through a Republican Congress, so it faces an uphill battle to be signed into law.

“We have amended the current law over the years to recognize that sex workers are often the victims of trafficking,” said Council Chairman Phil Mendelson in a statement. “Moreover, the penalties for first-time offenders are minor. But there is a great deal of collateral crime associated with prostitution, and it often presents a public nuisance. Accordingly, the District should not legalize this activity.”

The full bill

You can view the full text of the proposed bill here.

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